What Plastic Recycling Numbers Mean

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Plastic recycling is an important part of preserving the environment, yet many of us don’t know much about it. What kind of plastic can you recycle? How do you know what to toss and what to keep? Understanding plastic recycling numbers is essential for getting started in the wonderful world of plastic recycling.

How To Recycle Different Types Of Plastic

The first step to responsible plastic recycling is understanding the difference between different types of plastics. Plastics are classified and labelled according to their chemical makeup and these labels can usually be found on the bottom or back of products that are made with them.

There are seven categories, each labelled with a number from 1-7, that range from polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE) to polycarbonate (PC). Each type has its own set of advantages and disadvantages when it comes to recyclability, so it's important to understand which ones you should be keeping and which ones you should be throwing away.

Exploring The Different Plastic Recycling Numbers And What They Mean

The way that these numbers correspond to different types of plastics may seem perplexing at first glance, but don't worry - there’s a system behind them all! Here we take a look at each number and what it means for recyclability:

  • 1 – Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET or PETE): Generally used in single-use bottles such as water bottles, this type of plastic is highly recyclable.
  • 2 – High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE): Used in things like milk jugs, detergent bottles, juice bottles and food containers, this type of plastic is also highly recyclable.
  • 3 – Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC): Often found in shrink wrap and other packaging materials, PVC isn’t usually able to be recycled due to its chemical makeup. However, some local government programs and promotional items may accept it for special disposal.
  • 4 – Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE): Found in things like sandwich bags, bread bags and freezer bags, this type of plastic isn’t widely accepted for curbside recycling but may be taken by some specialty centers for proper disposal.
  • 5 – Polypropylene (PP): Used primarily for food storage containers such as yogurt cups and margarine tubs, this type of plastic is generally accepted by most local curbside programs.
  • 6 – Polystyrene (PS) : Found mostly in disposable coffee cups, and egg cartons as well as packaging peanuts and insulation materials; Unfortunately, this type of plastic cannot easily be recycled due to its inability to break down into smaller pieces during processing.
  • 7–Polycarbonate(PC): Mostly used for hard clear plastics like baby bottles or Nalgene bottles; this material isn’t accepted by most curbside recycling programs due its ability to leach chemicals over time if not disposed properly.

Examining What You Should Do Based On The Plastic Recycling Number

Now that we've gone over the different types of plastics available and what they mean when it comes time for disposal or recycling, let's go through how you can use this information when dealing with your own waste management practices:

1. If a product has a number 1 through 5 on it, then it should generally be considered acceptable for curbside program pickup, though always confirm with your local municipality before tossing something out!

2. If the item has a 6 or 7 on it, then unfortunately, you won't want to throw this into your curbside bin since these items aren't typically eligible - however, they may have special post-consumer disposal or collection centers near where you live that accept such materials instead!

3. Lastly if any products don't have any recycling symbols on them at all then chances are they're not meant for reusing/recycling, so make sure before discarding anything within reason - otherwise just double check if there's any information present regarding their environmental disposal status beforehand..

Sorting Out Good And Bad Plastics For Recycling Based On The Number System

Now that we know how each numerical label corresponds with certain kinds of plastics, let's go over what exactly counts as good vs bad matierials:

Good: Any items with numerical labels from 1-5 indicate a good chance that these can be recycled either via traditional curbside pickup as well as select post consumer collections sites/centers depending on availability in your area!

Bad: Contrarily anything with either 6 or 7 numerical rating aren’t typically suited towards being recycled so please double check before just chucking them out because there could still exist alternative methods such as drop-off points/programs somewhere. 

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Author Profile: David


David is a sales manager at Cubic Promote with over 13 years of experience in the promotional product industry. David is the resident expert on promotional pens, corporate gift packs, and promotional product distribution across multiple departments. Visit him on LinkedIn.


Cubic Promote 1300 858 288 sales@cubicpromote.com.au Cubic Promote Online ensures fast delivery & offers affordable promotional products, gifts, & merchandise in Australia. Shop now! Call 1300858288 for more info.